Winnisook Mountain and West Winni

Chris on the summit of West Winnisook
Average read time 11 min

Winnisook Mountain is a 3270’ peak that sits perched at the headwall of the Big Indian Valley. Winni is ranked 56th highest in the Catskill 100 and 21st of the Catskill 67. It has east and west summits, with the east summit being the high point. However, not all high points are the main attraction, and that’s the case with Winni. The high point straddles the Big Indian Wilderness and Winnisook Lake land boundary, so it’s on private land, just barely making this peak a close enough peak. The Big Indian Valley is walled by the Big Indian Wilderness to its west and the Slide Mountain Wilderness to the east. Hiking  Winni and west Winni from the Slide Mountain parking area makes for a short 2-mile bushwhack. Even though it is a short hike, there are many things to excite the seasoned hiker along the way.

Hike Length: 2 miles R/T

Route Type: Loop

Total Ascent: 930+/-' (total to summit)

How Hard: Moderate/Difficult (bushwhack)

Click the map for interactive version

Map associated with Winnisook.
- NYNJTC Catskill Map Set

Winnisook Mountain relationship to other peaks

As the bird flies, Winni is about 1.1-miles to the northeast of Hemlock Mountain (3245’), 1.6-miles east of Spruce Mountain (3381’), and 1.2-miles west-north-west of the 3600’ point called Little Slide, which towers over tiny Winniook Lake. Little Slide is not really considered a peak but rather a bump on Slide Mountains’ massive ridges. Winni’s summit proper is on private property owned by the Winnisook Club. Both Spruce and Winnisook are Catskill 67 peaks.

Related information: The Catskill 67 Peaks List

Winnisook Lake

The Winnisook Lake Club owns Winnisook Lake. The lake, now technically a reservoir and was impounded in 1888. The club expanded it to its current 5-acre size to support fishing for the Winnisook Club members. It is the highest lake in the Catskills at 2,664’ and is considered the Esopus Creek’s headwaters. It is named after Chief Winnisook, a Native American associated with area folklore. As RT 47 passes the high point in the pass near the lake, it is the highest elevation improved public through road in the state. Given its elevation and approach from the hairpin turn below, it can make for a wild ride in the Winter!

Bushwhacking Winnisook Mountain

Your departure point will be the state parking lot for Slide Mountain on RT 47 or Slide Mountain Road. Be forewarned that this and the Giant Ledge parking areas are among the busiest in the Catskills. On the day we got there (a Thursday), it was 9:30 AM, and the lot had room for one vehicle. As we drove by, the Giant Ledge lot was also full. So, either get an early start or have backup plans in mind.

Sign for Slide Mountain parking area and trailhead
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sign for Slide Mountain parking area and trailhead
Slide Mountain parking area all filled up by 9:30 AM
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Slide Mountain parking area all filled up by 9:30 AM

From the parking area, take the road right (east) and walk toward the Winnisook Club. You’ll be leaving the road on the opposite side about 0.10-miles from the parking area where the state and club’s property meet. It will be marked with two state forest preserve signs and a large cornerstone marker for the club. You can enter the woods before this, but it simply makes the start of navigation a bit easier. Also, you’ll get to see a very lively stream on the right side of the road.

Slide Mountain Road (CR 47)
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Slide Mountain Road (CR 47)
State land signs marking the corner of the Big Indian Wilderness where it meets Winnisook Club
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking State land signs marking the corner of the Big Indian Wilderness where it meets Winnisook Club (False Hellebore growing on the forest floor)
Winnisook Club property marker
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Winnisook Club property marker

When climbing the ridge, stay on the public lands. The state and club’s markings are sparse, so make sure you have a map and compass or GPS. In fact, it is probably easier to angle toward the col as the terrain below the summit is ringed with small cliff lines.

Dig deeper: The Big Indian Wilderness a Comprehensive Guide

As you climb, you’ll cross a couple of seasonal streams, probable underground springs, which vary in the amount of water they hold. The ground is very rocky in parts, and depending on your line of ascent, you’ll find extraordinary boulder fields to scramble through.

Boulders typical on this hike
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Boulders typical on this hike
More boulders on Winnisook Mountain
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking More boulders on Winnisook Mountain

Don’t forget, in Spring to search out wildflowers that are abundant, especially as you gain the summit ridge.

Painted Trillium
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Red Trillium
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)
Trout Lilly
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
Spring Beauties  (Claytonia caroliniana)
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Spring Beauties (Claytonia caroliniana)

Check out the rock in the area. Much of it is conglomerate which is found in the southern high peaks.

Conglomerate is common on Winnisook
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Conglomerate is common on Winnisook

Also, spend some time looking for signs of life in strange places!

Boulders are often the starting point for many trees that uses slight soil to grow
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Boulders are often the starting point for many trees that can use slight soil to grow
"Dead" trees support a host of wildlife and insect communities. These trees, both downed and upright may last for decades.
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking “Dead” trees support a host of flora, wildlife, and insect communities. These trees, both downed and upright may last for decades.

As you approach the summit, you’ll find a couple of cliff bands that are easily avoided if you keep traveling left until they run out. Or if you’re the type of hiker that likes cliff scrambles, there are ways up the ledges. You’ll reach the summit at 0.90-miles from the parking area with 859’ of climbing.

First set of cliffs below Winnisook Mtn summit
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking First set of cliffs below Winnisook Mtn summit
First set of cliffs below Winnisook Mtn summit
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking First set of cliffs below Winnisook Mtn summit
Standing on the top of the first cliff line looking down into the col
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Standing on the top of the first cliff line looking down into the col

Once on the airy summit of Winni, like on your trip up, the ground will be very rocky and “bumpy.” Take your time and enjoy the scenery as with the trees bare, one can see many peaks at various points on the summit. From the top of the cliffs looking west to northwest, you can see “West Winni,” Hemlock, Spruce, Fir, and Eagle. Fir obscures Big Indian. On the east side of the peak to your southwest to the southeast, you can see the Wildcats, Table, and Slide Mountain. With more poking around, you’ll be able to see Gaint Ledge and Panther. When the trees are leafed out, there are no views.

Dig deeper: The Slide Mountain Wilderness a Complete Guide

Summit of Winnisook Mountain
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Summit of Winnisook Mountain
Slide Mountain from the summit of Winnisook Mountain
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Slide Mountain from the summit of Winnisook Mountain

Wildlife is abundant here. Look down, and you’ll find deer, bear, turkey tracks, and more. Also, keep a keen eye for things scurrying around. As we approached the summit of Winni, a Porcupine quickly climbed a tree for safety. We sat and watched it from a distance as it continued to climb the tree, but with a much slower, sloth-like movement watching us just as intently. Very cool!

Porcupine in tree.
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Porcupine in a tree.

Winni to West Winni

The 128’ descent from the summit to the col is quick, as is the walk across the wide-open ridge connecting the peak of Winni with its western subpeak.

Some say the real prize of this hike awaits you on the west peak 0.37-miles from the summit of Winni and 70’ climbing from the col. They may be right. As you reach the western summit, the trees become very stunted, and a large open meadow ringing with small boulders gives this place an unusual feel. It is a place to stop and enjoy the unique high elevation fern glade, which it is packed with in-season.

The west summit of Winni
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking The west summit of Winni
Chris on the summit of West Winni
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris on the summit of West Winni

West Winni return to Road

We headed WSW for a bit from the West summit and avoided some steep terrain, and then headed south back to the road returning to the point where we entered, having dropped 770’ in 0.66-miles. On your way down, take in the views of Slide, Table, and The Wildcats. Also, look back at some of the impressive rock ledges you’ll need to navigate!

Slide Mountain while descending West Winni
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Slide Mountain while descending West Winni
The Curtis Ridge on Slide Mountain, Table, and Wildcat while descending West Winni
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking The Curtis Ridge on Slide Mountain, Table (peeking out), and Wildcat while descending West Winni
Rock ledges you'll need to navigate on your way off West Winni
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Rock ledges you’ll need to navigate on your way off West Winni

Extending your hike!

One could continue their day and head to Hemlock, Spruce, and even Fir. The distance to Fir is about 2.5-miles over Hemlock and Spruce. Of course, you’d also need to come back!


Big Indian Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: r3admin@dec.ny.gov
Law Enforcement, Emergency & Ranger: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
Location: Towns of Denning, Shadaken and Hardenburgh in Ulster County
Map: Big Indian Wilderness Map
Amenities:Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Fleischmanns, Livingston Manor and Pine Hill.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Margaretville and Livingston Manor.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Margaretville and Pine Hill.
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Oliverea and Pine Hill.
Weather:Big Indian Mountain Forecast
Cell Service:Never count on your cell phone for rescue. There are many spots in the Big Indian Wilderness that service is poor.

Map for Winnisook Mountain

Click map or here for an interactive version of the map

Map for Winnisook Mountain
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Map for Winnisook Mountain
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